Wednesday, August 15, 2012

War Crimes Abound As Syrian Civil War Drags On

It should come as no surprise that war crimes are an ongoing feature of the Syrian civil war. Whether it's the Syrian military operating at the behest of Bashar al-Assad bombarding civilian areas or his loyalist militias engaging in massacres, or rebel forces murdering captured government officials by throwing them off rooftops, war crimes are an ongoing concern and worry for Syrians and the human rights groups tracking such actions.

The only difference between the sides is the scope of the war crimes and human rights violations; the rebels have done it to a lesser degree than Assad's goon squads:
Syrian government forces and allied shabbiha militia have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder and torture in what appears to be state-directed policy, UN human rights investigators said on Wednesday.

Syrian rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad have also committed war crimes but these "did not reach the gravity, frequency and scale" of those carried out by the army and security forces, they said.

"The commission found reasonable grounds to believe that government forces and the shabbiha had committed the crimes against humanity of murder and of torture, war crimes and gross violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including unlawful killing, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, sexual violence, indiscriminate attack, pillaging and destruction of property," said the 102-page report by the independent investigators led by Paulo Pinheiro.

Both government forces and armed insurgents had violated rights of children during the 17-month-old conflict, it said.
Airstrikes continue to take their toll on the Syrian people.

Meanwhile, the violence continues to spill over into Lebanon while Israel, Iraq, and Turkey are all warily watching the situation. The violence in Lebanon includes a series of abductions as retaliation for relatives being captured or killed inside Syria.

At the same time, the Pentagon is warning that Iran is training militias to fight in support of Assad inside Syria.
Sitting alongside Panetta at a Pentagon news conference Tuesday, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the militia, which is generally made up of Syrian Shiite forces, is being used to take the pressure off the Syrian regime forces.

“Any army would be taxed with that kind of pace,” Dempsey said. “They are having resupply problems, they are having morale problems, they are having the kind of wear and tear that would come of being in a fight for as long as they have.”

Dempsey also said that it appears Syrian rebels were able to shoot down a Syrian warplane but said he has seen no indication that they are armed with heavy weapons or surface-to-air missiles, at least not yet.

He says the MiG fighter could have been shot down with small arms fire. Syria has blamed the crash on a technical malfunction, but Dempsey said the cause “didn’t appear to be mechanical.”
The Syrian civil war has aspects of a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar among others. Iran, both directly and indirectly, is supporting Assad's regime while Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar are supporting the rebel forces hoping to topple Assad's regime. Russia is also trying to stave off NATO or UN military action to bring the conflict to a close, which has the effect of supporting Assad and his odious regime. That compares with France and the US, which are leading efforts to bring sanctions and other actions to bear against Assad. The other actions include covert support for the rebel forces, including communications gear and logistical support at the US base at Incerlik in Turkey.


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